19 November 2019
The suppliers under scrutiny by labor advocates make shoes for the Ivanka Trump brand. Photo: Reuters
The suppliers under scrutiny by labor advocates make shoes for the Ivanka Trump brand. Photo: Reuters

Chinese activists probing Ivanka Trump suppliers missing

Two Chinese labor activists were reported missing, with a third detained by police, while they were investigating violations at a factory that manufactured Ivanka Trump shoes, Bloomberg reports, citing a worker advocacy group.

Hua Haifeng, Li Zhao and Su Heng — working undercover under the direction of New York-based China Labor Watch at a factory operated by shoe manufacturer Huajian Group in the southeast province of Jiangxi — have been unreachable by phone over the weekend, said Li Qiang, the founder of the group.

Hua’s wife was contacted by local police by phone Tuesday afternoon and told that he had been detained for illegal eavesdropping, said the wife, Deng Guimian.

Huajian’s facility is one of 15 factories that make products for the brand founded by the daughter of US President Donald Trump that China Labor Watch said it has been investigating in the past year.

In a letter sent to Ivanka Trump in April, the group alleged a number of labor violations at two unnamed factories that supply the Ivanka Trump brand, including that employees were forced to work at least 12 1/2 hours a day for wages below China’s legal minimum — a monthly salary equivalent to about a dollar an hour.

Huajian representatives could not be reached for comment at its factories in Ganzhou and Dongguan.

It’s the first time in 17 years that activists working for the nonprofit workers advocacy group have been detained by the Chinese police, Li said.

Hua was supposed to deliver evidence of violations including images and videos to Li in Hong Kong last week, but he was barred from leaving the country without being given a reason, Li said.

“I’ve been with my husband for 10 years and he has always been in this line. There’s never been any problems before,” Hua’s wife, Deng, said by phone Wednesday. “He was working for justice and helping ordinary workers. I felt that what he did was not harming anyone — he was helping people.”

A representative for Ivanka Trump’s brand declined to comment. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Calls to the Ganzhou Public Security Bureau went unanswered on Wednesday.

The manufacturer’s facilities also make products for other brands, including Coach Inc. and Marc Fisher Footwear Co., according to its website. A Marc Fisher spokesman said the company is “unaware of the allegations and will look into them immediately.” A Coach spokeswoman said none of the company’s products have been produced at the Jiangxi factory “to our knowledge.”

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